For many years, Colombia was one of the biggest exporters of illegal drugs around the world. But now the country is trying to convert some of that history into a successful legal marijuana market.
Two years ago, Colombia passed a law allowing medical marijuana for domestic use and export. And now the country's working to become one of the biggest cannabis producers in the world, and many believe it could transform their economy. So far the country's issued 33 licenses to grow legal marijuana and they hope to produce as much as 40.5 tons of cannabis each year.
Marijuana production has always been part of Colombia, albeit on the black market. But now the government and legitimate businesses are able to make money off of it. And many of the people who relied on cannabis to make a living on the black market are allowed to do so legitimately now. The only requirement is that farmers destroy their illegal crops before they apply to take part in the legal market.
Some experts predict Colombia could capture as much as one-fifth of the marijuana market around the world, which could be worth $40 billion in a few years. That would be more than the exports for almost all of Colombia's other resources combined.
Of course, the big market would be the United States. While the U.S. is obviously the largest market for black market cannabis, the country still bans importing medicinal marijuana, even in states where it's allowed. Of course, if the government decides to legalize the drug in the next few years, that could open up another huge market and opportunity for Colombian exports.